Sunday’s gathering turned out fruitful. Three of my former players made it out and discussed what I want to do, what they want to do, and decided what direction we’re heading. The final decision was to run a game set in the Mass Effect universe, but let’s discuss how we all got there.

My current fascination with the way True Detective told a story was paramount to me. I’d recently re-read Paladin and thought the two would be a nice fit, especially how Paladin focuses on trying to do good but without being pure and innocent. Paladin rewards, and encourages, bad behavior. Something I think is a key to True Detective’s characters. Marty and Rust are not good people, but they do good things.

One of my players has been on a bit of a Leverage kick and was really interested in exploring the relationship of a crew and the idea of bad people doing good things. I think that dovetailed nicely into my vision but while I had focused on a historic setting he was jonesing  for a modern backdrop. My original idea for a True Detective variant of Firefly had already ruminated in my brain so I suggested a futuristic of space-drama and he agreed.

Another player expressed an interest in the noir styling,  wanting mystery, intrigue, and dirty people. Again, heavy overlap and yet another person looking for emphasis of bad people doing good things. After all, the classic noir detective is hardly a knight in shining armor. He had a specific game that had excited him and, from what he could show us, was really cool. Except it was written in Swedish and he was the only one in the group that could read it. Luckily, he understood the limitation and easily agreed to trying Paladin.

The third player showed up a bit late (he let us know ahead of time so there are no hard feelings) but when we reviewed everything  he was on board. He’s also the kind of player that will gladly contribute to whatever the group comes up with, and rarely makes a fuss over the details. A trait I always appreciate in my players.

This brought us to deciding on the exact setting for the game. I explained that I’d prefer an established setting so I could spend less time world-building and more time story-telling. We discussed Firefly, Star Trek, Star Wars, and a few others. One of the issues I brought up with Star Wars was how the setting was inherently exotic and magical, aspects I wanted to downplay. My concern is that it would be difficult to have a strange True Detective style mystery in a setting where people could point to the Force or Aliens as an explanation. Star Trek has similar issues with Aliens but they don’t trend towards the bizarre that Star Wars does.

Eventually, Mass Effect was suggests. While it does have some of those issues I suggested we set the game early in Human history and remove Biotics from the table. I latched on to the First Contact War as a focal point for the narrative and the players agreed to play an all Human crew. Through more discussion we decided there were three broad factions we could deal with; the Alliance Military, Private Military Contractors, and Independents (explorers, colonists, traders, pirates, etc). The group decided to go the PMC route to ensure a connection to the First Contact War but not be bound to the rigid structure of the military.

The next part of our discussion was around what aspect of PMC life the crew would focus on. Some of the players expressed an interested in not being soldier grunts and one liked the idea of a salvage crew. Working with those ides we decided on a search & rescue crew, all of which where also highly trained stealth operatives capable of doing black ops missions. The idea was 90% Search, Rescue, and Salvage, with 10% black ops.

The next day I sat down to start putting together a PMC for the players and deciding on the details of the story. I can’t to do much without characters but I can get a general idea. Here’s what I came up with as an opening pitch:

It is three months before Humanity will make disastrous first contact with another sentient species. A crew of operatives registered with the Castaigne-Academi PMC are en-route from the an outpost on Callisto, Jupiter to the Charon Relay, having just accepted a contract to investigate the fate of scientists on Eunomia, the third planet of the Arcturus system. This is the story of that crew, what they found on the desolate planet, and how they all learned the awful truth about the universe.

Paladin suggests that players work for an organization and gives guidance to help flesh it out. While this could easily be a collaborative process, I felt that knowing the direction the players want to go and where I want to take the story it would be more efficient to outline a basic structure for the players to plug into. One of the big elements to Paladin is the Code of Laws, which you’ll notice is missing from the organization below. I haven’t decided if we’ll do a uniform Code or let people have their own. That will be a discussion for next Sunday.

I called the group Castaigne-Academi, a name pulled from Robert W. Chambers and a real life PMC. In Mass Effect lore Cerberus rose out of the First Conflict War and I’m planning on having the player’s PMC splinter and form Cerberus, but that’s a few months out still. For now, here’s the details I’ve created for the C-A.


In 2148, a mining team on Mars made perhaps humanity’s greatest discovery, the subterranean ruins of an ancient alien research station. This discovery revealed incontrovertible proof of alien life. Humanity was no longer alone in the universe.

Within a year of the discovery, Earth’s eighteen largest nations had drafted and ratified the Systems Alliance charter, establishing a representative political body to expand and defend human territory. Shortly afterwards, the various nations of Earth pooled their military resources to create the Systems Alliance Military. The same year, 2149, the Alliance discovered the Sol system’s mass relay orbiting Pluto, previously thought to be a moon, Charon. The Charon Relay propelled them into space and the reach of humanity grew quickly.

The Alliance began a rapid campaign of expansion, establishing numerous colonies and constructing a large fleet, even though it had yet to encounter another species. Maintaining this expansion policy, the Alliance activated all the mass relays it could find to seek out new resources and possible colonies. But despite this success, the Systems Alliance was not considered a serious political body, as it was seen to lack the authority of individual nations.

Today, eight years later, humanity is months away from making first contact with another alien species…

Organization, Faith, and Charter

Castaigne-Academi is a conglomeration of Russian, British, South African, and American PMCs (private military contractors) that takes on eighty-seven perfect of the Alliance’s military contracts. A large and sprawling network of operatives, the C-A consisted of hundreds of individual ships free of bureaucratic oversight and operating on a contractual basis for the C-A. This also means that each ship, or fleet, tend to have their own rules. C-A simply vets crews and contracts then provides resources to those it finds in good standing.


C-A has a contract with Jormangund Technology to provide arms and armor for their operatives. After six-months on contract with the C-A a ship is outfitted with Torrent ARs (+1), Savage Shotguns (+2), Pinnacle Pistols (+1), Helix Rifles (+2), and Crisis (+1) or Hazard (+2) armors.


The C-A only recruit the best operatives they can find. Anyone who works with the C-A must be a cut above. While still wholly human, it’s assumed that all C-A Operatives can:

  • Perform amazing feats of strength, agility, and endurance.
  • Handle the perils of space through extensive zero-g training.

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